Rezoning spells end of aerodrome?

Dr Richard Gates believes the Minister for Planning's decision to approve rezoning at the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome for a retirement village may sound the death knell of the WWII-era airfield.

Dr Gates, president of the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Committee, believes Richmond Valley Council wants to carve up the entire airfield for residential development and said the rezoning is just the first nail in the coffin.

He said many veterans believe the Aerodrome should be used for aviation purposes.

“That's what the WWII veterans want and many of them think it's sacrilegious to turn the airfield into a retirement village and housing development," Dr Gates said. "Having a working airfield is the best monument to the veterans - a constant reminder of what its history has been. More than 1000 soldiers who trained at the Aerodrome lost their lives in service to Australia and they represent approximately 20% of all RAAF personnel who were killed in WWII.”

The Minister for Planning Kristina Keneally last Friday approved the rezoning of 4.8 hectares of Aerodrome land from rural and industrial to village, paving the way for Ballina RSL Lifecare to build a retirement village. The entire development would cover 9.2 hectares.

Richmond Valley Council's director of environment development services, Ken Exley vehemently denied Dr Gate's claims.

“I think Richard's hypothesis is based on scare-mongering and ignores the actual facts. The reality is the land has a Plan of Management because of the State Heritage listing and that plan identifies a whole range of different land uses, from aviation uses to protection of environmental areas to the retirement village development, and industrial development. The only residential component is the land for the retirement village, no other land is identified for that use,” he said. “There is not a plan to create a residential development - never has been, never will be.”

He said he felt it was fitting that Ballina RSL Lifecare were the proponents of the retirement village.

“The largest organisation that represents the veterans is the RSL and they are the ones behind the development proposal. They would be aware of what the veterans feelings are,” Mr Exley said. The issue of noise is also a concern with Dr Gates claiming it would lead to the aerodrome's eventual demise. But Mr Exley said their noise assessments was based on the Australian Noise Forecast which was used for all airports around Australia.

“The noise won't affect people because they are outside the noise footprint. Any claim to the contrary is speculation and has no basis in science,” he said.

Dr Gtaes believes future noise complaints would lead to council chopping 300 metres from the runway which would restrict the size and types of aircraft that could use it.

“Then when there's fewer aircraft Council will say no-one is using the Aerodrome anymore and they'll carve it up for residential development. This is really cynical move on their part to close down the aerodrome in the long term. Despite their rhetoric, that's exactly what they have in mind.

“People will give you the argument they (the future residents) are old and deaf anyway, but I'm saying in spite of the deafness when the noise gets loud they are super-sensitive to that noise and it's much louder to them than the normal population.”

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